Coronavirus: Could lockdown be eased to help tourism in July?

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TenbyImage source, oksanaphoto/Getty Images

The Welsh Government "hopes to be able to say something positive" for the tourism industry when lockdown restrictions are reviewed in July, the economy minister has said.

Ken Skates singled out 9 July as a possible date for that decision.

People in Wales can meet others from another household outdoors but are advised to travel no more than five miles as a "rule of thumb".

He said that matter would be considered as "we look to reopen" tourism.

Mr Skates was speaking at the Welsh Government's daily coronavirus news conference.

In England, the UK government has allowed for unlimited travel and for groups of six to meet, although scientific advisors to the Conservative UK government have expressed concern at the speed lockdown is being eased there.

Answering questions from journalists, he said that "we will have to visit this question of the five mile guidance" at that stage.

"And at that point we hope that we will be able to do so in a way that does not put at risk public safety," Mr Skates said.

But the minister said the Welsh Government would need to be "confident that we will not ruin the prospects of the visitor economy for 2021 by prematurely opening up the visitor economy".

Image source, Welsh Government
Image caption,
Ken Skates: "We hope to be able to say something positive for that important sector"

Mr Skates' said his message to the tourism industry was that Welsh ministers have "that regular rhythm in place, of reviews every three weeks".

"At the last review point, the first minister, stated that the next three weeks would offer us an opportunity to look at how non-essential retail would be able to operate," he said.

"The next review point is on June the 18th, when the first minister will be saying something about other areas of the economy.

"And then, of course, the date after that is July the 9th."

Mr Skates said the difference across all the governments of the UK on tourism and the lockdown was "not significant at all".

"In Scotland we don't yet know what the date might be for the re-opening of the tourism and hospitality sectors, but in other parts of the UK, governments have said that, at the very earliest, it could be July the 4th for some parts of the tourism and hospitality sector."

Later on Wednesday, Scotland's tourist businesses were told to prepare to reopen on 15 July.

The country's Tourism Secretary Fergus Ewing said the date was conditional on moving to the third phase of the Scottish Government's route map for easing lockdown restrictions.

Image source, Richard Hoare/Geograph
Image caption,
Conwy Castle is a key tourist attraction in north Wales

At the news conference, Mr Skates said that in Wales "we have the review dates of June the [18th], July the 9th and July the 30th, and we hope to be able to say something positive for that important sector".

North Wales Tourism managing director Jim Jones said "frustration" across the sector in the region was "palpable".

"We need July and August in the bag, or there will be large scale problems in the industry," he said.

"We need to plan now for whatever season we can have." 

Mr Jones said it would be wrong for England to be "opening up while all the potential visitors to Wales say 'oh, Wales is closed, we'll book to go elsewhere'".

'No hope for their businesses'

The leader of the Conservatives in the Senedd, Paul Davies, urged First Minister Mark Drakeford to offer hope and reassurance to the Welsh tourism sector.

Mr Davies said many tourist firms in Wales were left "languishing" as they saw their counterparts across the UK adapting their business models and ways of welcoming back visitors.

"Many operators feel as though they're being left behind, with no hope for their businesses in the future," Mr Davies warned.